C’s Baklava

 

I always thought baklava was too complex to try at home. Then C found this amazing recipe in The Complete Middle East Cook Book and not only proved me wrong, but it was hands down the best baklava I’ve ever had.

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C's Baklava
Servings
Ingredients
Base
Syrup Ingredients:
Servings
Ingredients
Base
Syrup Ingredients:
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. If your walnuts and almonds are whole, or not ground pretty fine, throw them in the food processor.
  3. Mix the nuts, sugar and spices together in a bowl.
  4. Butter the sides and bottom of a large baking dish.
  5. Place one sheet of the fillo dough on the bottom of the baking dish and brush with melted butter. Repeat eight times.
  6. Spread some of the nut mixture over the buttered fillo dough. Top with another sheet of fillo dough.
  7. Butter that sheet.
  8. Top with a second sheet of fillo dough.
  9. Butter that sheet. ]
  10. Spread the remaining nut mixture over butter fillo dough.
  11. Top with the remaining nine sheets of fillo dough, making sure to butter each sheet. Brush the top with butter and using a sharp knife, cut a diamond shape and sprinkle with water to prevent the top layers from curling.
  12. Bake on the center shelf for 30 minutes.
  13. Then move up one shelf and cook for another 30 minutes. You'll want to keep an eye on it, if the top browns too quickly, cover with foil.
  14. While the baklava is cooking, make the syrup. Note: we've discovered the longer the syrup sits, the better it is. We've even canned it for later.
  15. Place the sugar, water and honey in a medium-sized pot over medium heat.
  16. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  17. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
  18. Be careful! This boils quickly and the last thing you want is for the mixture to boil over. Manage your heat and let boil for 15 minutes. We found stirring continuously helps prevent boil overs.
  19. Strain and let cool.
  20. When the baklava is done baking, spoon the syrup over the pastry. Leave it alone for several hours (this step is the hardest, but I promise it is worth it).

My opinion: This recipe takes more than the  hour of baking time and makes at least 30 pieces. You might want to cut them small, unlike some treats this is best in small, completely satisfying quantities.

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S’s Eclair Cake

Eclair Cake

S brought this to the office last week and it is to die for. Her modifications from the original recipe made it taste like a fancy bakery put this dish together.

Ingredients:
2 (3.5 ounce) packages instant french vanilla pudding mix
1 (8 ounce) container fat-free Coolwhip
3 cups skim milk
1 (16 ounce) package graham cracker squares
1 (16 ounce) package prepared chocolate frosting

Directions:
In a medium bowl, thoroughly blend the pudding mix, whipped topping, and milk. Arrange a single layer of graham cracker squares in the bottom of a 13×9 inch baking pan. Evenly spread half of the pudding mixture over the crackers. Top with another layer of crackers and the remaining pudding mixture. Top with a final layer of graham crackers. Cover the cake and chill for at least 30 minutes. Then heat the frosting in the microwave for 30 seconds and pour over the cooled cake up to the edges of the pan. Cover, and chill at least 4 hours before serving.

My opinion:
So so so good. Plan to take this out of the house or you just might eat the whole thing.

Peppermint Balls

Peppermint Balls

While the holiday baking season might be over, we’re still eating our left overs. No complaints though! My newest favorite candy is these peppermint balls. I originally tried to make patties, (like this recipe suggests) but they didn’t work out as well and ended up coated in less chocolate. Once we got past that part, the recipe was actually surprisingly easy, I don’t think these will be regulated to just winter holiday food after this year.

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar (you might need a little more or less depending on how it comes together.)
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water (we had the best luck with warm water)
2 teaspoon peppermint extract (the original recipe called for one, but we like it a little more minty)
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
1 bag semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:
Beat 2 1/4 cups of confectioners sugar together with corn syrup, water, peppermint extract and vegetable shortening until combined. The mixture might crumbly (this is good!) If it isn’t, add some more sugar. Dust a work surface with remaining 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar.Empty contents of bowl onto work surface and knead until smooth (this will take a few minutes). This is when we put it back in the bowl and stuck it in the freezer. Where we left it for about an hour.

Before you take the dough out of the freezer, you need to temper your chocolate. Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl at 30 second intervals, stirring in between. Cool slightly.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove dough from freezer. Using a spoon make a ball and dip into the chocolate and then set on the parchment paper. If the chocolate doesn’t cover the ball all the way, drip chocolate over the top once it is on the wax paper. Once all the dough is used, put the entire baking sheet into the freezer.

Once set, we stored these in the refrigerator between wax paper.

Peppermint Balls (inside)

My opinion:
The colder the dough is the easier it will be to work with. We ended up doing these in two batches because the dough thawed too much in between.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins/Coffee Cake


It’s fall! Which means pumpkin everything! Coffee! Dessert! Pie! It’s easy to be in pumpkin over load. As I’ve previously mentioned, (here and here) I haven’t always loved pumpkin. But I do love dessert. So when the opportunity came to make a pumpkin dessert  I enlisted the help of my super patient sister and got to work. We tweaked this recipe.

Ingredients:
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling, just plain pumpkin!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (we used about 3/4 of a bag that was already open)
Crisco for the muffin tin (you can use liners if you prefer)

Directions:
In large mixing bowl beat eggs, sugar, pumpkin, vanilla and oil until smooth. It will be super runny, that’s ok! Mix dry ingredients together and mix into pumpkin mixture. Slowly! Work in about a third of the dry ingredients at a time. Fold in chocolate chips. Fold from the bottom, this keep the chocolate chips from settling on the bottom. Fill greased muffin cups 3/4 full. Or if making a coffee cake/loaf, use two greased loaf pans. Bake at 400 F for 16-20 minutes. In my oven, the muffins took all 20 minutes and the loaf took 25. So use a toothpick to make sure.

My opinion:
At first, I was nervous. This smelled so pumpkin-y! And it was gloopy and not much of a batter. But when the timer dinged and the muffins were done. I was shocked! They tasted like a really good chocolate chip muffin with just a hint of pumpkin!  I would make and eat this again! I might even make and eat this for friends and family.

C’s Texas Sheet Cake

I’ve mentioned before, my sister, C, has a knack for perfecting baked goods. She did it again with this super delicious, never dry (even after three days!) recipe. It’s a combination of Joy of Cooking and our Mom’s family recipe.

 

Ingredients and Directions:
Have all ingredients at room temperature, about 70 degrees f. Pre-heat the over to 375 degrees f. Grease a 13×9 pan. if you don’t have the pan, you can use 2 round pans for an 8×11 pan and a loaf pan (the pan isn’t the most important part).

Whisk together in a large bowl until well blended:
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Combine in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly:
1 cup strong, black coffee (apparently, this is Mom’s secret ingredient)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 unsweetened cocoa powder

Pour the hot mixture over dry ingredients and stir together just until smooth. Let cool slightly (about 3-5 minutes), then work in:
2 large eggs
1/2 buttermilk (regular milk works, too)
1 tsp vanilla

Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for about 3-5 minutes (until the cake is just warm) and spread on the icing.

Mom’s Icing:
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup milk
3 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Mix together and spread over warm sheet cake.

My opinion:
I might like this better than regular chocolate cake. Hard to believe, I know, but it is so good. I can’t wait for the next time C has a reason to make it!